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What is the standard of animal welfare at Australian abattoirs?

Article ID: 478
Last updated: 25 May, 2016
Revision: 3
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In Australia, the killing of animals for food, fibre and other animal products (referred to as ‘slaughter’) is underpinned by the Australian standard for the hygienic production and transport of meat and meat products for human consumption. As the title suggests, the main objective of the standard is to ensure food safety, however, it also includes an animal welfare component.
Recognising the importance of animal welfare at processing, the Australian meat industry has gone a step further and developed its own National animal welfare standards for livestock processing establishments. By incorporating these standards into their quality assurance program (and standard operating procedures), abattoirs are able to demonstrate (to the state meat authority) that they meet regulatory requirements as well as good practice in terms of animal care and welfare.
The industry standards cover six important areas that influence animal welfare at processing. These are:
  1. Standard operating procedures to prevent risks to animal welfare.
  2. Design and maintenance of facilities and equipment to ensure minimal interference or stress to livestock.
  3. All staff required to handle livestock are competent.
  4. Livestock that are weak, ill or injured are identified and promptly treated.
  5. Livestock are managed to minimise stress and injuries.
  6. Restraint, stunning and slaughter procedures are carried out humanely and effectively.
Standard procedures at Australian abattoirs are designed to hold and move animals throughout the facility in a calm, quiet and ‘low stress’ manner. Just prior to slaughter, animals are very briefly restrained and then stunned with minimal stress. An operator confirms that each animal is unconscious and will be insensible to pain when the major blood vessels are severed shortly afterwards. The animal does not regain consciousness and no further processing takes place until the animal is confirmed dead.
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